This is Summer: Season Five {Episode 4}


Drove behind two miles 

The pile swayed, the pile shifted

Pro stacking: no falls 

{Humboldt Park, Chicago}

~Natalia 

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{Larissa}

  
She is 

Quite literally 

Never

Boring. 

~Natalia 

Midnight Hallway

It’s nearly midnight and I’m perched on my tall bed.

Computer balanced on my lap, cursor blinking where I’d left it, mid-sentence.

I’ve paused, hands in midair, listening.

In the hall, on the other side of the thick wooden door, something rustles.

I lean off the bed, watch the tiny space under the door for movement, shadows.

Nothing moves.

I turn, settle back onto my flattened pillow once more, run fingers over my keyboard; I’m about to write-

The sound once more. A silent hallway, devoid of voices, and yet something moves, crinkles, just beyond my door.

I slide off the bed, pad the two steps to the door, open it slowly.

Krista, also known as The Neighbor, looks up rather guiltily from her seat on the flat carpet across from my door.

A styrofoam cup of horchata next to her, taco clutched in one hand, her deep blue eyes crinkled into laughter before her mouth- temporarily full of taco- could catch up.

I laughed, too, sinking on the floor across from her, working to contain my amusement to a quiet-hours appropriate decibel level.

Of course, it’s a scene I’ve seen many times before: Krista, cross-legged in the night-lit hallway, laptop, textbooks, Bible spread around her.

But tonight I’ve caught her mid-bite in a midnight snack, the taco wrapper rustling with every delicious bit, and maybe it’s the hour,

or maybe it’s the stories, adventures, let’s-get-fancy-just-because nights we’ve shared,

but there in that midnight hallway, we can’t help but laugh.

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Dressing Up for No Reason Fall 2013.

~Natalia

Laugh With

What do you think the train will look like? She asks the girls, standing there on the train platform. We’ve been waiting thirty minutes now, there on the cement strip between tracks. There are heaters, overhead. In the cold evenings, wind biting, I pull my shoulders up, shove my arms deep into my pockets, feel the heat on my head, hunched back. Now, in the afternoon balmy, it’s almost too hot under the heater; we step in and out, hopscotching between heat and chill, back and forth.

The girls, the pair of them, are standing under the heater when she asks. Next to each other, one black coat, one white. White coat is older, lost nine teeth now. They’ve all grown back, wide adult teeth that fill her quizzical smile. Black coat is younger, taller though. Her hair is braided back, twisted intricate into a ponytail. I had been holding her- lanky skinny jean legs wrapped around my waist- but now she stands in the heat, yellow warmth reflected off of her pastel-framed glasses.

There will be lights, white coat postulates. Black coat stamps, hopping from one foot to the other. She’s thinking, imaging the Christmas Train we’re waiting for, but then someone’s said it’s coming and she’s in my arms again, I’m leaning almost too far over the tracks, craning to see.

There are light. Windows, each train car outlined in white, red, green bulbs. And in the middle of the train, reindeer figures stand on green tuft, Santa Clause sits on a red sleigh, smiling, waving, as he rolls into the train station. Next to me, she’s using her phone to click blurry pictures of the brilliant train, and we’re all exclaiming over the sheer festivity of it all.

Minutes later, we’re on the train. Inside, the bars are wrapped in red and white; candy canes. Tinsel lines the insides of the windows, and the deep blue square of upholstery on every seat has been replaced with fabric depicting candy canes, reindeer, snowmen and Santa. There are elves in green, red vest with buckets of miniature candy canes. Next to me on a seat decorated with Gingerbread Man fabric, Black coat clasps three of the minty candies in her hand, sucks on a fourth.

Overhead, the space usually occupied by advertisements, phone numbers, train service announcements, is instead filled with Christmas wishes, movie posters for fake Christmas movies, and holiday-themed jokes. In the seat behind me, White coat pulls her candy cane out of her mouth long enough to read one of the jokes. It’s a knock-knock joke and we all chuckle, in the silly way that you laugh when the joke isn’t as funny as the person who has shared it.

She can see, can read, all the written material in our section of the train car, but past the elf standing by the door, past the people and the faces and the smiles, I can see a joke she can’t. I read it quickly, as if it’s a race and White coat might see it, might read it, might beat me to the punchline. Quickly again, I turn behind me, to red-coated father, one arm draped over the back of White coat’s seat.

What do you call a bunch of chess champions bragging about their accomplishments in a hotel lobby? I ask, grinning. I know he’ll be amused.

He thinks for a moment, and I barely allow him time to shrug uncertainty before I’m telling him the answer; chess nuts boasting in an open foyer!

And he laughs with me, of course; eyes crinkled, white teeth peering through under his mustachioed grin. Across the aisle, Mother rolls her eyes, shakes her head. We laugh more at this. It’s our ritual; us, amused, her, understanding, markedly unamused. It makes everything funnier, this parallel, and I repeat the punch line again, because I know she’ll shake her head, smile playing her soft lips again, even as his shoulders shake again, laughing.

~Natalia

Overkill?

By way of confession, or celebration, or testimony,

or whatever you’d like to call it,

allow me to add today, two hours ago, to the short, but growing,

list of Times Natalie Has Shed Tears During Class;

along with the incredibly affirming and yet also

emotionally rocking Interview Project from last winter,

and at least one other tear-full incident.

Today was tears of relief, which I managed to contain in the general area of my eyelids,

by way of blinking excessively

and expending much effort in avoiding eye contact with the professor

(I sit in the front row, for goodness sake!)

until I had regained composure.

I assume I was the only one whose reaction was so emotional,

of course, in my shaken state I wasn’t looking around the room,

scanning for tears.

But, it was a cheer, a boisterous applause

(after we recovered from our uncertain, speechless shock)

when the professor asked how we would feel if he moved the paper

from this week

to October 10th.

While it could be argued that my reaction was a little over the top,

I certainly don’t believe that God’s grace

and sense of humor

could be overstated

in this paper-writing, test-taking, studying, learning, growing

adventure of my life.

~Natalia

Bullet Point Post: A Sitter Takes the Kids and I Can’t Handle

• The two small ones, currently aged eight and six, were in my care for more than thirteen hours yesterday. Well, no, in the interest of complete and total honesty, they were explicitly in my care for 11 hours. I left them with a sitter between the hours of 5 and 7pm, whilst I walked to work, worked, and then returned home. Having sisters so much younger than myself, I enjoy the privilege of being both sister and third parent to the pair. However, the entire concept of leaving them with a sitter was almost too much for my summer brain to handle. There are several reasons for this:

1) Who. By definition of the word, I am the sitter. I care for the children when my parents are unable to do so. Who, therefore, could I possibly call on to support my own sitting needs? Thankfully, the Mother, with her bountiful connections, texted two hours prior to inform me that a young man by the name of Bryan would be caring for the dynamic duo in my absence. So when a man came to the front door claiming to be Bryan, I let him in.

2) Leaving. It is my personal legacy, when walking to work, to loiter aimlessly around the house until the last possible moment, then spend the first seven minutes of my now-fast walk whining to myself about my pitiful lack of a car, wondering why none of the strangers driving past are telepathically sensing my woe and offering me a ride, and generally wilting under the hot sun. Thankfully, it’s a short walk. But yesterday. So I’m puttering around the house, while the girls are already giving Bryan a crash course in their current favorite card game, and I suddenly realize that I have no idea how to leave them with a sitter.
– Do I kiss the girls goodbye, tell them I’ll be back soon? Do I just slip out the door? (I told them repeatedly that I would be back soon, then slipped out)
– Do I leave emergency contact? (He has my mother’s number, and it’s also plastered to the microwave)
– Do I offer them food? I know from personal experience that a sitter judges a job by the amount and quality of food offered them. I dare not offend Bryan by failing to offer nourishment. (I pointed out the humus in the fridge, pita on the counter. Then went back into the kitchen and put four more options on the counter. Including an entire box of Mac’n’Cheese)
– And the mother of all sitting questions: Do I Pay Bryan the Sitter? (The mother left me with $20 for the sitter, then informed me that it would not be necessary to pay him. I pocketed the cash and she hasn’t asked for it yet. She will now though.)

3) Returning. I came back after work to find the eight-year-old demonstrating her ability to hide under my parents’ bed, while the 6-year-old, in a purple princess dress, hung amiably on Bryan’s arm. I greeted the trio, of whom Bryan’s welcoming nod was the most recognition I received, and then proceeded to the kitchen, where I learned that they had been so involved in their fun that they had eaten absolutely nothing. I began preparing the Mac’n’Cheese, while simultaneously giving subtle hints that I had officially arrived home, and Bryan was free to leave at any point. I, of course, being the kind and polite individual that you imagine me to be, did not wish to rush his departure, but I did desire to communicate that his stint as caregiver had come to a close, his assistance was greatly appreciated, and the little princesses were no longer holding him hostage.

Twenty minutes later, with much thanks (on my part) and waving (on the part of the girlies) we bid Bryan adieu, and the girls ate Mac’n’Cheese by candle light (only fitting for children wearing miniature princess gowns) and I sat down to scroll through Instagram until Bed Time.

~Natalia

Natalia Could Have Married a Mexican, Part Two

{Part One Here}

Eyebrows raised in tandem now, wearing matching expressions of concern and amusement, my fellow observer and I watched as the man stumbled past us and took a seat down the row. The large man sunk unsteadily between two other rather inebriated individuals, both of whom welcomed him warmly, and one of whom waved a dollar bill in his face in exchange for one of the cans of beer the man was clutching. Beginning to feel a little uneasy about the sudden spike in blood alcohol level in our car, I averted my gaze from the little drunk-fest. Of course, the only other logical place to look was across the aisle at my new amigo.

Our mutual observation of the drunk-guy-spilled-on-sober-guy-then-wobbled-through-the-whole-train-car-before-becoming-bffs-with-these-other-two drama had drawn us together and our bond was now stronger than the original I am white and he’s hispanic and I like hispanic people connection. We were tight, friends. So tight, in fact, that he chose this moment to speak to me.

Is this Fullerton? He asked, and I’ll admit to you that I was pleasantly surprised at how heavy his accent was. Now, here is the part where I fudged a little bit, because yes, Fullerton was the next stop, but the Red Line rolls through two other stations before Fullerton. So I suppose it was a bit of a half-truth when I nodded, that yes, it was Fullerton. Then we both stood up because what shock! What joy! What symmetry of heart and mind: we were both getting off at Fullerton!

But alas, alas! I stood too soon and my movement caused two deeply unfortunate things to happen: 1) Mr. Beer spotted my open seat and lurched back across the train car. This could actually have been rather entertaining, because I often have trouble traversing the train car completely sober, so you can imagine that a man twice my size with extensive amounts of alcohol in his system had some struggles as the train rumbled towards downtown Chicago.

So it could have been funny, in a sad kind of way, but whatever humor there could have been was completely eliminated by the fact that I was so involved in watching the man stagger from one seat to the other that I forgot to look away when he sat down. Allow me to reiterate that last sentence: I made Train Eye Contact with a heftily-built, heavily intoxicated man. Eye contact with a hispanic man with light facial scruff: neutral to good thing. Eye contact with a man who sells extra beer cans from a ripped Jewel bag: bad thing.

This highly unfortunate accidental eye contact resulted in Bad Thing #2: my 0.6 seconds of eye contact inspired the man to enter into a lengthy and exuberant discourse directed in my general direction. So I stood by the door and thought about everything I could think of that had nothing to do with every word that should never be said. He yelled and yelled and I ignored and ignored and Fullerton seemed to be getting farther away by the second.

But wait, you say. What about my friend? My Mexican Romeo? My spouse-to-be? What was he doing? The story’s getting good now.

So we were both de-boarding at Fullerton, you will remember, standing there on either side of the door; him with his back to our acquaintance, who continued to voice his thoughts loudly. I stood looking out the window, cheeks getting hotter with every passing word. But it was dark outside, of course, and the window was reflective: I could see that he was watching my face.

And it suddenly dawned on me that his position across from me served as a bit of a shield against all this yelling, and I realized how scared I would have been feeling in that moment, had he not been there, watching me, and it’s been a while since I felt so oddly grateful. So I said what any deeply thankful damsel in distress would say.

“He’s realllllly drunk.”

~Natalia

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